Witness Tuesday night: Rick Perry tried to question Romney on his health-care proposal, noting that one of Romney’s own supporters said it was identical to Obamacare. Romney responded with several self-congratulatory sentences while totally avoiding Perry’s original query. This was considered the perfect answer; no reporter pressed Romney on substance—nor did any other candidate. The entire discussion of health care in these debates is limited to what platitudes a candidate can utter in under two minutes. But why pick on only Romney? Has any candidate explained what exactly he or she would do to pass economic legislation through a divided Congress? Or explained why they will get things accomplished more effectively than Presidents Bush or Obama, who both promised to change the tone in our nation’s capital and “get things done”? The candidates have learned the perils of independent thinking. They are on the lookout for “gaffes.” What more can one say about the status of our political system when a candidate can say “It’s time for America to be America again” as if it were high-minded discourse.
And therein lies Obama’s opportunity—at this point, maybe his only one. The president’s already talked the country to death with endless “major speeches” and a multitude of “major press conferences”—now it’s the Republicans’ turn. Let the country take a long, hard look at the bland, uberpolitical talking heads pretending to be contenders for the most important office in the land. Let the other side issue their canned talking points, their unimaginative, simplistic policy positions (“create jobs” “cut taxes” “help our kids”) and their “gotcha” attacks, on every cable channel in America. Then maybe a bored-out-of their-minds electorate will take a look at President Obama and realize he ain’t that much worse. Come to think of it: If the White House can manage it, they ought to sponsor the next GOP debate themselves.